Page last updated at 13:38 GMT, Monday, 25 August 2008 14:38 UK

Irish 'need new EU treaty vote'

Ireland's Europe Minister Dick Roche
Mr Roche says the Irish people still see the EU project as "vital"

The Irish Republic may need to hold a second referendum on the EU's Lisbon Treaty, despite its rejection by voters in June, an Irish minister says.

Irish Europe Minister Dick Roche said that "because we've already had a referendum on this issue I think the people will have to be consulted".

He told the Irish broadcaster RTE that this was his "personal view".

The other 26 EU member states will probably all have ratified the reform treaty by Christmas, he said.

Previously Irish ministers have insisted it is too early to say how best to proceed with treaty ratification, following the No vote - by a margin of 7% - in the 12 June referendum.

Mr Roche said that before a possible second referendum "there's a lot of work to be done," in the RTE interview on Monday.

"The government is involved in detailed research to isolate the specific matters that were most sensitive in the minds of voters as we went to the polls on 12 June… those matters then have to be addressed," he said.

Last month Italy became the 23rd EU member state to approve the reform treaty, which is aimed at improving decision-making in the enlarged EU.

EU summit briefing

The Irish government will present a "position report" to an EU summit in October, Mr Roche said, which would not be a final roadmap.

"Towards the end of the year we'll have to decide what our timetable is," he added.

Lisbon Treaty signing ceremony, 13 Dec 07
EU leaders signed up to the treaty but ratification has been slow

"We cannot exclude the possibility that at some stage and in the right circumstances it may be necessary to consult the people again," he said.

He argued that there was no appetite for renegotiating the treaty in Europe and that it was "the product of many years of hard work".

He said work must be done to "disengage Ireland" from Eurosceptics such as the UK Independence Party and others "who regard the European project as anathema".

The treaty has to be ratified by all 27 member states in order to take effect.

The treaty was originally meant to be in place in January 2009 - well ahead of the European Parliament elections in June 2009.

The Irish Republic was the only EU member state to hold a referendum on the treaty. The other countries that have not yet ratified it are the Czech Republic, Poland and Sweden.

Critics see the treaty as further evidence of a federalist, pro-integration agenda at work in the EU. They say the treaty is just a modified version of the EU constitution, rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

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